Suitability of DNA Sequencing Tools for Identifying Edible Seaweeds Sold in the United States

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Seaweeds have been consumed by billions of people around the world and are increasingly popular in United States (US) diets. Some seaweed species have been associated with adverse health effects - such as heavy metal toxicity - and higher priced seaweeds may be more prone to adulteration. Knowing which species of seaweeds are being marketed in the US is important for protecting human health and preventing economic adulteration. Therefore, the United States Food and Drug Administration is developing new DNA-based species identification tools to complement established chemical methods for verifying the accurate labeling of products. Here, seaweed products available in the United States were surveyed using a tiered approach to evaluate a variety of DNA extraction techniques followed by traditional DNA barcoding via Sanger sequencing; if needed, genome skimming of total extracted nuclear DNA via next-generation sequencing was performed. This two-tiered approach of DNA barcoding and genome skimming could identify most seaweed samples (41/46), even those in blends (2/2, 1 out of 3 labeled species in each). Only two commercial samples appeared to be mislabeled or to contain unintended algal species. Five samples, labeled as "hijiki"or "arame", could not be confirmed by these DNA-based identification methods.

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Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry